DON’T TRIVIALISE DEATH
I do not fear death. There are reasons why I would welcome it, but I definitely have no thought of ending my present life. I want all that to be clear.
Like most people, I have never been pre-occupied with thoughts of death or dying. However, also like most people, death has been no stranger in my life. I was a teenager when my sister died and later my mother. My mother’s death, in tragic circumstances, deeply affected me. I had thoughts then about there being some deeper meaning to life. Mum had taught me prayers as a child, and I had been to Sunday School, but I had more questions than answers on life. Dad died the year after I was married, and one brother a few years later. My closest brother died later still, and after sixty-eight years together, my dear wife departed last year. I am acquainted with death.
A dictionary definition of ‘death’ says:
1/ Final cessation of vital functions;
2/ Event that terminates life.
This turns us to the meaning of ‘life’ where the definition is not so simple. In fact, it is lengthy and complicated. Personally, I think of words like ‘being’ and ‘existing’. Briefly, one has to know about life to understand death.
In this enlightened age we tend to ‘go online’ for more information about most things. So, I searched ‘death and dying’, and wow! I was surprised. What I had always understood to be a taboo subject was up front there. I was presented with many options as to where I could go for information: ‘Goodreads.com’ offered me 1,347 quotes on death and dying. Among other options were ‘Death is nothing at all’, ’82 death quotes that comfort and inspire you’, ‘119 death quotes that will bring relief’, and there were many others. Those that I sampled were generally upbeat about death, and I was supposed to feel warmed and reassured after reading them. Not really. Not at all. You see, I had my most serious encounter with death, last year, when my wife of a lifetime died.
I wrote a memoir on the last few years we spent together (written for my wife’s surviving siblings) where I said something that I did not realise until re-reading it much later. I never even thought about death until her beloved body grew cold. In view of her terminal condition, that seems unusual – but it is true. It is probably more unusual because we had both prepared for our departure in detail. We had spoken with family, prepared wills, advanced health directives, bought our double grave plot, written details for our graveside interment, and any thanksgiving ceremonies (funerals), and anything else we thought we needed to do.
Then, when my loved one had breathed her last breath, the awful truth hit me. I finally realised, finally accepted, that she was dead – and the horror, the ugliness, the cruelty of death seemed to overwhelm me. This is also unusual because my lifetime career had often brought me into contact with death, and lifeless bodies. I had learned to view those experiences as impersonal. That was necessary. This was very personal, and the true nature of death became clear. Previously, my focus had been on life and living, and my wife.
We often hear someone passing off the idea of death with some light-hearted remark. I have heard Christian folk speaking of death as a door that one passes through, and I understand that Bible-believing folk have no fear of death. That is all very good, but one must never, never ever trivialise death. Why?
Though frequently disbelieved, the Bible has never been disproved. I hold with those who believe in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures as originally given. The Bible speaks of God, and all that exists, and especially God’s relationship with mankind. History is important, and the Bible is where we start our study of history. If we forget our history we are doomed to repeat its wrongs, as has so often been said. However, the Bible is clear. In the opening account of the beginnings of human history we learn that our earliest forbears disobeyed their Creator and suffered punishment, as they had been warned. That punishment is death – cruel, ugly, horrible, unnatural death. That is our inheritance from that beginning to this day.
Death is the consequence of sinful disobedience. Trivialise death and you trivialise sin. God forbid! Think of sin, think of an innocent Man suffering an agonising death on a cruel cross – taking the place of those who would trust Him. Trivialise death and you trivialise our only hope to avoid its eternal consequences. I don’t want to think about that.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.6:23). Praise God !
– Neville Taylor